Hampshire Community Focus: Meet Sharon Smith, Chair of the Hampshire Parent/Carer Network (HPCN)
What is HPCN?
It’s a parent and carer forum. We work with families of young people, aged from 0 to 25 years old with a range of disabilities or additional needs, from quite mild to very complex, across the whole of Hampshire (excluding the unitary authorities of Portsmouth and Southampton).
How did you become involved?
My daughter, Tanzie, has Down syndrome. She started attending a mainstream school at 5 years old and when the summer holidays came she wanted to get involved in the same organised holiday activities as her school friends. We found that she was being turned down because she had extra needs. I launched myself into a battle with the local activity provider and found I wasn’t getting anywhere. I ended up speaking to Hampshire County Council because I felt that there weren’t the right services out there for children like Tanzie and they told me that if I wanted to change things I should get involved in influencing the decisions– so I did!
What is the purpose of this network?
Our specific role is to shape and develop services to meet the needs of children with disabilities or additional needs. We are supported by Parent Voice, which provides an information and participation service for parents and carers. We have representatives who work with Children’s Services and with Health and we feel that we are building relationships here and that we are valued. We all need this to be a positive and constructive partnership so we aim to represent the views of parents in a solution-focussed way – it’s not about having a moan, it’s about making sure we achieve the right outcomes.
How do other parents and carers get involved and why should they?
We need parents to become involved so that they are heard. We want to increase the number of reps we have and the numbers of families who are feeding their views to us so that we are representing the views of all families not just our own.
We have monthly public meetings and we are also setting up local groups. Families can find further information and contact details on the Parent Voice website or by calling us on 02380 721206